Ireland must avoid humiliation, warns Stephen Ferris

Stephen Ferris has insisted that Ireland must do their utmost to avoid suffering a rout at the hands of New Zealand at Soldier Field on Saturday.

Ireland must avoid humiliation, warns Stephen Ferris

With the red-hot All Blacks aiming to extend their record-breaking 18-0 Test run, former international flanker Ferris is wary of a heavy defeat upsetting morale ahead of a return clash at Aviva Stadium in two weeks’ time.

Although the retired 31-year-old claimed that he does not anticipate a one-sided game, Ferris said: “I’ve always been in or around Irish squads when you believed you could win every match, but looking from the outside in now, I just can’t see Ireland winning this game.

“Why? Because New Zealand are the best team in the world and Ireland have a few injures. Big leaders aren’t going to be there and when backs against the wall you need leaders to stand up, but never say never.” That perceived weakness in personnel and the All Blacks’ heavy artillery means Ferris holds concerns over the showdown.

Speaking in promotion of AIG’s Rugby Weekend, Ferris said: “Hopefully Ireland can put in a good performance because they’ve been thrown together.

“They’ve been playing for their provinces the last couple of weeks, they haven’t had much time together and the New Zealand lads have been playing for the last six weeks or eight weeks maybe and it’s going to be tough.

“A true reflection will be when Ireland play New Zealand in the Aviva in a couple of weeks time when they’ve had a bit more time together.

“Ireland have to be clinical and put in a performance. If they go out and let themselves down and go out and get beaten by 50 or 60 points, then it’s almost like back to the drawing board.”

The Chicago setting of this weekend’s match adds some novelty to the clash, although the former Ulster back row noted that many may well question the timing of the clash. When asked if there is value to playing the in-form All Blacks when lreland have had extremely limited preparation time, Ferris laughed: “Ask the IRFU” But on a more serious note, he added: “Ach, I think it’s good for rugby in general. There’s obviously a massive Irish contingent over there in Chicago and it’ll be a great spectacle for everyone.

Having twice lost to New Zealand — in 2008 and 2010 — Ferris knows the size of the massive challenge at hand: “We’re Irish, we always have a chance.

“Yes I do think it’s going to be 19 [New Zealand wins on the bounce]. But I think they [Ireland] can put in a performance and build on it for the next couple of weeks,” added Ferris, who insisted that Ireland will not be distracted by Paddy Jackson’s absence from the squad.

“I’d say the issue has been fully addressed by Joe,” said Ferris. “Yes, they are friendly with Paddy, but I’d be focused on the game solely. That’s me being maybe a little bit selfish, but that’s professional rugby,” said Ferris, who was reluctant to comment in detail on Jackon’s situation.

“He’s a good mate of mine,” said the former Ulster back row. “So to see his name in the headlines this week, it affected me as well.

“I just hope he can use rugby as a distraction over the next week and hopefully get back into the team within the next couple of weeks and play like I know he can,” added Ferris, backing Ulster to “do their talking on the pitch” tomorrow night against Edinburgh.

All-Black Charles Piutau and former Ireland International Stephen Ferris were in The Helix Theatre in Dublin yesterday to officially launch the historic ‘Rugby Weekend’ event in Chicago, presented by AIG Insurance. Ireland play the All Blacks this Saturday in Soldier Field and The Maori All Blacks face the USA Eagles tomorrow.

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